Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia

On the northern bank of the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia, lies the Lower Zambezi National Park. The Muchinga escarpment forms a striking background to the river, and mopane woodland and acacia shrubs add to the wild beauty that is Zambezi. Canoeing on the river is an experience not to be missed - huge herds of elephant and buffalo gather on the riverbanks, massive crocodiles laze on the sun-drenched sand, and thousands of hippos have claimed the river as their own. The big predators – lion, leopard and hyena – are easily seen, and even the rare wild dog is can be spotted in Lower Zambezi.

  • Best Time to Go


  • Average Safari Cost

    $200 - $1,000 pp/day. Park fee: $25-$30.

  • Highlights

    Canoe rides on the Zambezi River, lions and leopards are common, huge herds of elephants and buffalo, the wild dog and the roan antelope are present, 350 bird species.

Why Visit Lower Zambezi National Park

Canoe rides on the Zambezi River or one of the smaller rivers, provides excellent wildlife viewing. Along the river and sandbanks, elephants and buffalos are easily seen in huge herds, and thousands of hippos share their watery home with huge crocodiles. Trips along the river also make for some fantastic birdwatching.

Lower Zambezi is home to large prides of lions, and the scavenging hyenas are notorious for betraying the leopards feasting in the treetops.

Another great thing about Lower Zambezi, is the wild dog. Although this rare predator is seldom seen, you may be able to catch a glimpse of them hunting impala at dawn or dusk. The rare roan antelope is also present in the park, but like the wild dog, it is not easily found.

Birdwatching is great in Lower Zambezi due to the range of activities that are available. Walking tours, night drives and boat trips mean that you will be able to see a wide variety of bird species. The park holds over 350 species, many of which are waders, raptors, and migratory birds from November to April, ensuring a diverse and wonderful birdwatching checklist.

Pros and Cons

There are some things to consider before booking your safari in Lower Zambezi.
  • Four of the Big Five present
  • Sightings of a wild dog
  • Great wildlife
  • Friendly and knowledgable guides
  • Boat safaris, night drives and walking
  • Canoe trips
  • Only expensive lodging inside park; budget lodges are located outside the park
  • The humidity from November to April can become oppressive

Best Time to Go

Wet season: November – April

Dry season: May – October

From May to October, Lower Zambezi is mild, and the dry weather gradually thins out vegetation. In contrast, November to April is hot and wet, and the humidity can be overwhelmingly uncomfortable.

Wildlife viewing is at its best from July to October, when the vegetation is thin and water sources become limited. Game viewing is much easier when the animals aren’t scattered due to overly abundant water sources, such as it is the wetter months. The weather is also much more pleasant at this time of the year – mild temperatures and almost no rain and lower humidity.

While the wet months from November to April are rather unpleasant, this is the prime time for birdwatching, with migratory birds available, and the breeding season in full swing. Unfortunately, many of the lodges are closed at this time of the year, which will make finding suitable accommodation challenging. Consult your tour operator for more details.

For more information when to visit see our Zambia Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

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Wildlife and Birds

Wildlife in Lower Zambezi is good. Elephants and buffalos roam the small islands in huge herds that can be often be seen along the riverbanks. There are big prides of lions present, and leopards and hyenas are easily seen.

The park is home to the wild dog as well, although catching a glimpse of them is never certain. The best time of the day to see these rare predators is at dusk and dawn. Their favorite prey – the impala – are abundant, and if you are lucky, you may get to witness a hunt.

There are thousands of hippos that have claimed the river as their home, and they share it with the massive crocodiles that enjoy lazing on the sun-kissed sandbanks. The roan antelope is present, but like the wild dog, it is seldom seen. Cheetah, giraffe and rhino do not populate Lower Zambezi.

List of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Wildebeest
  • Wild Dog
  • Zebra

Rare Animals

  • Wild dog
  • Roan antelope

Infrequently Seen Animals

  • Hyena
  • Leopard
  • Lion

Frequently Seen Animals

  • Elephant
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Zebra
  • Wildebeest
  • Impala

With more than 350 recorded species of birds, Lower Zambezi National Park is a worthy birdwatching destination. Due to the range of activities that the park offers – walking, boat trips and night drives – you will be able to see a large variety of avian species. The striking Verreaux’s eagle can be seen on the cliffs, while a large assortment of waders (resident and migrant) can be found along the river. If migratory birds are of particular interest to you, the wetter months of November to April is when you can spot them.

Endangered Birds

For a complete list of endangered birds in Zambia see here.

Endemic and Near Endemic Birds

  • African hobby
  • African skimmer
  • African pitta
  • Blue-cheeked bee-eater
  • Crested guineafowl
  • Collared pratincole
  • Lilian's lovebird
  • Meyer’s parrot
  • Narina trogon
  • Osprey
  • Palm-nut vulture
  • Pel’s fishing-owl
  • Pennant-winged nightjar
  • Southern carmine bee-eater
  • Trumpeter hornbill
  • Verreaux’s eagle
  • White-fronted plover

Getting There and Safety

Zambia’s main airport, Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN), is usually the main entry point into the country. It is located 14km (9 miles) from Lusaka. If you are also visiting Victoria Falls, you could arrive at Livingstone Airport (LVI) ( Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport).

Located 216km (134 miles) from Lusaka, most people prefer to fly to Lower Zambezi National Park. As Zambezi Valley has multiple airstrips, taking a chartered or scheduled flight to the area is easy enough. There are tour operators who run trips from Lusaka, and you could book a tour with them instead.

Alternatively, there is also the option to self-drive. However, you will need a very good, high-clearance 4x4 – you also need to be self-sufficient, with plenty bush driving experience. You have the option of driving all the way to Lower Zambezi, or to stop at Gwabi River Lodge – you can leave your car at the lodge and take a boat ride instead. Although this could benefit people who already have experience in self-driving safaris, for novices it is advisable to look at available tours.


For the flights to Zambia, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights.


For more information on visas see our Zambia Safari - Complete Country Guide.

Vaccinations and Malaria

The malaria risk is high throughout all of Zambia – including Lower Zambezi National Park. The highest risk is during the wet months from November to April, when mosquitoes are most active.

Speak to your doctor or travel clinic beforehand, to ensure that you have all the necessary vaccinations. They should also be able to tell you which anti-malarial medication you should take for Zambia. As always, using insect repellent (30% DEET or more) and wearing long-sleeved clothing at night is a good first line of defense against mosquitoes.

Check your local travel health authority for more information:


All national parks in Zambia are crime free and safe. Crime would mainly take place in cities and towns such as Lusaka. As a third-world country, muggings and thefts are common, although those visiting as part of an organized safari usually don’t encounter any trouble.

Caution is advised when travelling through towns, especially if you have opted to self-drive. It is best to avoid walking anywhere alone, and try not to travel at night. Keep your valuables out of sight as much as possible in order to dissuade muggers.

If you have opted to do a self-drive, ensure that you have a high-clearance 4x4. We also recommend that you don’t do a self-drive unless you have experience in bush driving and are self-sufficient. Remember to overstock on water and gas, and other general necessities, in case of an emergency.

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Zambia. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What to Pack

If you are visiting from May to October, the weather will be mild and dry. Warm clothing might be necessary for chilly mornings and at night. For November to April, you will need wet-weather gear, as these months are hot, but wet. The humidity can get very uncomfortable, so be prepared.

No matter which time of year you plan to visit, ensure that you have enough insect repellent (30% DEET or more), sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. Always carry ample water with you, to ensure that you do not get dehydrated.

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.

Drinking Water

The tap water in Zambia is not safe to drink. You will be able to find bottled water in all shops, and it is generally inexpensive.

Avoid water going into your mouth while showering, and don’t use ice blocks. Tea and coffee is safe as it is made with boiled water, for everything else (such as juice in restaurants) ask if it was made with bottled or boiled water.